Fast Food from Home – Mixed Greens Blog Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest Thu, 14 Sep 2017 22:20:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 With a Cooler & a Coleman Stove Thu, 04 Jun 2015 15:41:59 +0000 Cooking and eating outdoors.

I just returned from a hiking-biking-camping trip to southeastern Utah – yes, the SUN still shines somewhere – so camp cooking came up during our meeting. I like to eat as well as possible no matter where I am so I’m motivated to arrange for a decent meal even via a cooler and an ancient Coleman stove. In a recent conversation, Poppy and I wondered about experimenting with similar meals when we camp out this summer on her Orcas Island property, I in my tent, she in her tiny cabin. Not there to mess around, but to work and plan. Seriously. No, seriously. No messing around.

Camping, picnicking, road tripping . . . what’s the food that’s good and makes sense? And let me be clear, this was a car camping trip. Back packing meals are another story.

(This is a repost from several years ago. On the cusp of another summer, seems like a good time to revisit the culinary side of this Utah camping trip. In whichever ways you celebrate summer, eat outdoors whenever you can. The porch steps will do.)

Here are a few ideas that worked for us in Utah. We hiked and biked all day long, poked into every nook and cranny, I swear, sunscreen and tank tops, a lot of sweat and wiped out in a good way at the end of the day. A tasty meal was important, but putting a lot of time and effort into making it wasn’t. Most meals were made in one pan, cast iron with a lid that could be used when we needed it. The thing is that we stocked up and planned in advance for five dinners for two – increase quantities for more people but the ease of preparation still fits – so we didn’t have to wonder what we were eating each night. There was a plan. Leftovers expanded those five meals to seven and we ate out two nights.

Dessert. Every single night we had a few bites of the rhubarb sauce made and frozen before leaving home, sometimes with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a cookie. Also, the need for s’mores never dies, there might be a campfire, so pack accordingly.

In addition to the basics, here are a few things that were indispensable: our Coleman stove, a beloved hand-me-down; a cast iron skillet with a lid (in our case the lid was a metal plate that fit); a thermos for making coffee; a good quality large cooler with room for 2 quarts of yogurt, 2 small Greek yogurts, a cube of butter, mayo, mustard, milk, half & half, Parmesan cheese, 2 quarts of frozen rhubarb from home, washed lettuce, carrots, cucumber, cilantro (rinsed, wrapped in a paper towel and a wax paper bag), salad dressing, sour cream, Gorgonzola cheese, one frozen chicken breast, one package frozen Italian sausage, a dozen eggs plus a half dozen hard boiled. We normally don’t eat so many eggs, but this was the perfect week for it. Mid-week we resupplied salad greens, avocado, a red pepper, milk and juice. Before heading out I washed and packaged all produce.

A large plastic storage bin was a great camping pantry for staples like granola, onions, potatoes, ground coffee, a package of pre-cooked brown rice (which I’d never heard of before, from PCC market), a packet of Tika Marsala sauce also from PCC, 1 cup green lentils and 1 cup of rice packaged together at home (they both take 25 – 30 minutes to cook so they can be cooked together); cookies, chocolate, a loaf of Dave’s bread which, astonishingly, was good for the entire week; tortillas, tuna fish, salsa and chips, a tiny container of Italian herbs from home. A couple of bottles of wine and some beer, sent to the cooler a bottle or two at a time as there was room.

Some meals required a little chopping. Other than that it was cook and assemble in thirty minutes, often less. Each of the meals mentioned below were cooked in one pan, almost always the cast iron skillet. And with camp food, people are more easily satisfied – it doesn’t have to be an exquisite culinary home run every night, though you might come close.

Several camp meals worth considering (also great in the backyard):

Chicken Tika Marsala with pre-cooked brown rice. Never had tried pre-cooked rice before or a packaged tika marsala sauce, never thought I would, but for camping it was perfect. Leftovers the next night wrapped in tortillas with sour cream, avocado and cilantro.

Directions were on the Marsala packet. I sauteed onion, red pepper and bite-sized pieces of chicken for a few minutes, then added the packet of marsala sauce and some water. Put a lid on, let it simmer for 20 minutes stirred it occasionally. Then a bit of cream, reheat slightly and spoon over the brown rice. It was fabulous. The leftovers in the tortilla wraps were equally delicious.

This one was a long shot, we virtually never buy packets of ‘flavor’, but this was the deal for a fast meal. And . . . a person could easily discover the key flavors in tika marsala, package it in a jar or a zip lock, probably dried herbs, and save yourself from the processed packet. Even better.

Italian sausage ragu with cheese ravioli. Leftovers for lunch. This was done in one pan, an experiment that worked.

Ingredients and directions: Saute’ whole sausage in olive oil, add chopped onion and red pepper on the side, cook it all together for 7 – 10 minutes. Remove sausage, slice into bite-sized pieces and put it back in the pan. Add a jar of tomatoes or a marinara sauce. I used Cucina Fresca’s smoked tomato sauce. Bring it all to a simmer, adding a bit of water as needed. Add fresh raviolis, again Cucina Fresca’s (a fine local business) to the pan, stir to cover with the sauce. Put a lid on this or not. Fresh ravioli, not dried, will cook in the simmering sauce in about 5 minutes. Dish it onto the plate and enjoy. Breadsticks are a fine accompaniment.

A big green salad with hard-boiled eggs, tuna, asparagus, avocado a delicious dressing . . . and bread sticks.

Angel hair pasta with plenty of cheese. One night it got late and meal plans went south.

Directions: Unintentionally, we concocted a whirlwind, but delicious Mac & Cheese. Cook a big handful of angel hair pasta (enough for two in our case) 4 minutes give or take, drain all but about 1/3 cup of pasta water; add half & half (1/4 – 1/3 C or so), salt & pepper and reheat very gently and briefly. If you have herbs and spices on hand, add a pinch of chipotle pepper. Off heat add grated Parmesan, any cheesy leftovers, like a piece of Gorgonzola or some grated cheddar, whatever’s on hand. Stir it thoroughly, add more cheese, more liquid? Maybe reheat. Whadyaknow, Mac ‘n cheese. Don’t all culinary roads lead in that direction? Carrots on the side, late in the day, sun setting, we’re dead tired. Perfection. One pan, two plates, two forks, two wine glasses.

One note. This would have been even better with another pasta, but cooking time would increase dramatically.

Clam Pasta. Almost the same as above, but with some onion, herbs and clams.

clam pasta

Directions: Two pans needed, one the boiling water for angel hair pasta (which will cook in under 5 minutes), and a pan for everything else. Chop and saute’ half of a medium sized onion, 2 cloves of garlic until they’re soft, (and a small can of drained pimentos are a colorful addition if you have them). Add a tablespoon of Italian seasonings or just some oregano. Stir. Add the juice of two cans of canned clams (a splash of white wine if you have it) and simmer/reduce for 3 or 4 minutes. While the angel hair pasta cooks, add clams to the simmering sauce, cook for just a couple of minutes. Serve with a little grated parmesan and a glass of that white wine.

Basic frittata with 5 eggs, potatoes, onions, cheese and a few bits of Italian sausage from a previous meal.

Ingredients & Directions: Finely chop 1/2 onion and 2 potatoes/ Add 2 T butter and 1 T olive oil to skillet/ Add onion and potato to piping hot skillet/ Turn the heat down a bit, saute’ and stir until potatoes are tender, 10 – 15 minutes/ This would be the time to add other ingredients as you wish, like broccoli, fresh herbs, mushrooms/ When potatoes are tender, stir in the mixture of 5 beaten eggs and 1/4 C milk or cream/ Salt & pepper/ Stir constantly until eggs are done enough and not overcooked – the key to a frittata, any egg for that matter, is to not overcook it/ Each serving can be embellished with sour cream, avocado, a grating of cheese. Whatever. It’s a good meal.

Spanish Omelet from a previous post would be good camp fare.

Steamed eggs with spinach and breadcrumbs. A few gratings of parm, a small packet of bread crumbs brought from home and sprinkled over the eggs and spinach before serving provided a salty and buttery crunch, the kicker for these ordinary ingredients. For breakfast or dinner, so good. Again, one pan, one lid.

Ingredients & directions for two servings: Saute’ 5 – 6 C uncooked spinach and 1 finely minced clove of garlic in plenty of olive oil/ Stirring often, lid on or off, this will take 4 – 5 minutes/ Remove spinach to plates, wipe pan and add 1 T butter/ When butter is sizzling crack and gently add 4 eggs to the pan/ Salt & pepper/ Add a smidge of water to the skillet, put a lid on, turn heat down a bit and allow to steam for 3 or 4 minutes or until they are done to your liking/ Place eggs on servings of spinach, sprinkle with herbed bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese and have at it. If you have leftover cooked potatoes use them too.

The meal that didn’t happen. One of our favorites, but it turned out we didn’t need it. Lentils & rice with caramelized onions and yogurt/sour cream. This one requires two pans. Cook the rice and lentils together, 1 C rice, 1/2 C lentils in 3 – 3 1/2 cups of seasoned water or broth for 25 – 30 minutes. Add more water if it becomes too dry. While that’s happening slice one or two onions and saute’ with olive oil and butter until tender and golden. When all is done cover the rice and beans with a big scoop of onions and yogurt or sour cream. A universal combination, great for camping.

So, we didn’t starve. We returned home with a nearly empty cooler and pantry, bought a little fresh produce in Moab, enjoyed good food and didn’t spend much time at all preparing it. Dinner out a couple of nights helped.

And no kids along, which is a different story, but these meals would serve. Increase quantities, same meals but use two burners and two skillets. The kids’ help could be a significant contribution if they’re not too distracted by creating hideouts, stone building or squirrel sighting. With two of us making the meal there were moments of down time when either of us could have been on kid duty. It helps to give kids of any age the same task at each meal to be in charge of, they become the master of something like setting up chairs, creating a seating arrangement, setting the table, organizing and serving a simple dessert, keeping the pantry neatly packed after each meal, chopping and cleaning up when appropriate. In an ideal world.

We ate well. The tent thing, sleeping well? Somebody help me with that.

And Poppy, you ready to hit the road again this summer, cook outdoors, mix a cocktail, make plans?

Desert in bloom, sunshine, distant storms, mountain biking, hikes and meals outdoors were all part of our May trip to southeastern Utah. The landscape is otherworldly beautiful and the warm sunshine a respite for webbed feet and brain.

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Sum sum summertime: Tomatillo, Tomato, Corn & Ricotta Tortillas Mon, 15 Sep 2014 00:00:24 +0000 It’s still summer and fresh corn is so good it’s almost a guilty pleasure. Take that corn off the cob and wrap it up in a tortilla with tomato, tomatillo salsa, savory ricotta, avocado, grill it in butter, and relish summer’s crème de la crème. Gild the lily with arugula, a fried egg, Dungeness crab or whatever sounds good. It’s a pretty straight forward, versatile meal, rolled up or open-faced, make it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.


tomatilla & corn tortilla 2

tomatillo tortilla #2

Knowing that fresh corn is about to disappear from the local table for another year, I’m appreciating every sunlit kernel. These wraps are for right now, or make this fresh corn chowder, which can be frozen and savored all winter.corn chowder

My mom loved to remember and describe her favorite childhood summer meal: just a big platter of corn on the cob, another platter of homegrown tomatoes, and her mother’s homemade bread. Grown in their garden, there was plenty for everyone. There was also the drama of sharing with 10 or 11 siblings, along with her parents. Autumn will bring its own versions of deliciousness and favorite memories, but for now, along with ears of corn and tomatoes from the vine, we savor each tank top day and warm sunset.

Tomatillo, Tomato, Corn & Ricotta Tortillas Recipe

tomatilla & corn tortilla 1

Enough for 4 tortillas.

Ingredients: 4 tortillas/ For the salsa, roughly chop and blend 8 tomatillos, 2 T shallot or 2 t garlic, 2 t jalapeno, more or less, depending on taste, 1 T lime juice, 1 t cumin, 2 t fresh oregano/ kernels from two ears of corn/ 1 C fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped/ 2 C fresh ricotta mixed with 2 T each finely chopped chives and basil or oregano, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t pepper/ 1 sliced avocado/ 1/2 C cilantro/ 2 T butter for sautéing tortillas. (Recipe for Roasted Tomatillo Salsa below.)

 fresh corn tomatilla & corn tortilla  tomatilla & corn tortilla 1 (1) tomatilla & corn tortilla 2 (2) 

Directions: Tortillas can be cooked in butter before or after they are filled/ Place key ingredients in separate bowls, the corn, the ricotta mix, avocado, the blended tomatillo salsa (make salsa an hour or two in advance if possible)/ For an open faced presentation, sauté tortillas one at a time in butter until both sides are lightly browned, place one on each plate and layer ingredients on still warm tortillas: the ricotta, tomatillo salsa, fresh corn and avocado/ Or, place ingredients near center  of a tortilla, roll up tightly and sauté in butter until each side is golden/ Garnish with a little extra corn, cilantro and/or salsa.

Variations: Add salad greens, scallions, any salsa, roasted peppers, a fried or poached egg, Oregon shrimp, fresh crab, cheddar instead of ricotta cheese, omit the cheese . . . dive into late summer on a plate.

tomatilla & corn tortilla 3

*Roasted tomatillos make an excellent salsa.


Roasted Tomatillo Salsa, Rick Bayless
Salsa Verde
Servings: 1 cup


8ounces (3 to 4 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (1 or 2 serranos or 1 jalapeno), stemmed
2large garlic cloves, peeled
6 sprigs of fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off), roughly chopped
1small white onion, finely chopped

Roast the tomatillos, chile(s) and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, until blotchy black and softening (they’ll be turning from lime green to olive), about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side. Cool, then transfer everything to a blender, including all the delicious juice the tomatillos have exuded during roasting. Add the cilantro and 1/4 cup water, then blend to a coarse puree. Scoop into a serving dish. Rinse the onion under cold water, then shake to remove excess moisture. Stir into the salsa and season with salt, usually 1/2 teaspoon.

*Recommend doubling this recipe. One cup isn’t enough!

Breakfast for Dinner: Overly Easy Eggs Mon, 14 Apr 2014 00:00:39 +0000

I never really had full appreciation of what it meant for my mother to put dinner on the table for five rowdy kids every night of the week. Somewhere along the way, she rebelled, at least on Sunday nights and it became a DIY dinner night. More often than not, we kids collaborated on a Chef Boyardee pizza but for my taste, a fried egg sandwich was the perfect dinner, nutritious and delicious at any time during the day. I still feel that way and I’m not the only one to sing the praises of the simple fried egg sandwich.  One of M.F.K. Fisher’s most remembered recipes is her Aunt Gwen’s fried egg sandwich — “made of equal parts hunger and happiness.”

We all have our methods for frying eggs but mine is as easy and foolproof as they come. After years of trying to make the perfect over-easy fried egg by flipping it at exactly the right moment, I discovered using a lid on the skillet instead. Now they’re perfectly done, whites firm, yolk runny, but not too runny and cheese, if you want it, is melted, all in a matter of minutes. Use fresh organic eggs from a local farmer if at all possible. You’ll be able to tell such a difference in taste, you’ll have a hard time going back to grocery store eggs ever again.

Fried Egg Sandwich

Ingredients: 2 slices of good bread – When I don’t make my own, I often buy mine from Alex at Preston Hill Bakery at the University Farmers Market/ mayonnaise, optional for some but necessary in my house/ a fresh organic free-range egg/ some bacon or pancetta is great if you have some on hand/ a few slices of cheese – I used Beecher’s Flagship cheddar/ lettuce & tomato slices/ T of butter/ salt & pepper.

Directions: Melt butter in skillet over medium heat/ If you’re using bacon or pancetta, fry it in the skillet first and you may not need butter at all/ Crack egg into skillet and cover immediately with a lid, I usually turn the heat down between medium and medium-low/ Check after 3-4 minutes to see if the white is no longer clear, if so, place the cheese on the egg/ Cover again and cook just until the cheese melts, a couple of minutes longer/ Make your sandwich using your own unique method (we all have one) and devour it while it’s still warm.

Even though it’s such a loving act to make this for your kids, do yourselves a favor and teach them to make this simple meal.

Frittatas, omelets and plain old scrambled eggs make an excellent dinner with the addition of fresh vegetables. Leftovers will work fine so if you have a small container of something in the fridge, feel free to throw it in. I’ve been known to cut up leftover burritos and any number of other things and haven’t gotten a complaint yet. This week I made one with potatoes, corn and roasted peppers, one of my favorite late summer combos.

Corn, Potato and Pepper Frittata

Ingredients: 6 fresh eggs/ 4 oz. feta cheese/ 1 large potato, cooked and cubed/ 2 ears of corn, cut off the cob/ 1 medium red onion, chopped/1 clove garlic, minced/ 1 red bell pepper and 1 poblano pepper, chopped and seeds removed – I used roasted peppers but uncooked are fine too/ 2 T olive oil/ 2 T butter/ Salt & pepper to taste.

Directions: Preheat the oven broiler/ In a oven-proof skillet, heat the oil and melt butter over medium-high heat/ Saute onions, garlic and peppers until soft and translucent/ Whisk eggs in a bowl/ Add corn, cooked potato to the skillet/ Stir lightly together/ Pour egg mixture over vegetables in skillet/ Dot with feta cheese, season with salt & pepper/ Let cook on medium heat on stovetop until the eggs begin to set, around 3-4 minutes/ Transfer to oven, set under broiler and broil until brown and puffy on top, around 5 minutes/ Let the frittata sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

When Sally discovered Market Vegetarian by Ross Dobson this summer and I tried her Summer Vegetable Roast Au Jus inspired by this book, I knew I had to check it out of the library for myself. Although I don’t buy many cookbooks these days, this one is a real keeper literally loaded with recipes I’d like to try. I’m not a vegetarian but aspire to eat more meatless meals throughout the week and feel much more prepared with this book as a guide. I tried the Swiss Chard, Feta Cheese & Egg Pie and got rave reviews here on the homefront. It’s basically a pie crust loaded with sauteed swiss chard, onions and garlic, then topped with 4 eggs and plenty of feta cheese, then baked at 425 for about 20 minutes.


Easy meals, fresh ingredients, mostly vegetarian (oh yeah, except the pancetta on my fried egg sandwich), I’d like to have breakfast for dinner more often.


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Spicy Meatballs & Their Sidekicks Mon, 24 Mar 2014 00:40:29 +0000 Not sure I make lamb meatballs because it’s an excuse to eat the tzatziki sauce that belongs with them, or make the tzatziki in order to indulge in the lamb meatballs. Either way, they’re perfect pals, they go everywhere together. The Greeks figured out a while back that you can’t make one without the other, or, that you could but you shouldn’t.

walla walla sweets  & yogurt raita salad

lamb meatballs

So, three recipes for a Greek-inspired spring supper: one for lamb meatballs, another for its sidekick, tzatziki, along with saffron yogurt rice that’s such a nice bed for the meatballs.

Bon Appetite, Kalí óreksi, Happy Spring.

Spicy Lamb Meatballs Recipe

lamb meatballs

Ingredients: 1# ground lamb/ 1/4 C half & half/ 1/2 (or 1 C) finely chopped onion, sautéed/ 1 clove garlic, finely chopped and added to onion sauté/ 1 egg, whisked/ And lots of spicy flavor: 1 t each coriander and cumin seed, toasted lightly in dry sauté pan and then ground with mortar and pestle (or in a coffee grinder) along with 1 t kosher salt/ 1 t ground cumin, 1/4 t each cinnamon and turmeric, 1 – 2 t chopped fresh mint, 1 t lemon zest, 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley, 1 t pepper or to taste.

Directions: Sauté onion until soft (about 10 minutes), adding garlic when onions are nearly done/ Set aside to cool/ Meanwhile, mix egg and half & half together and add to larger bowl with the ground lamb/ Mix lightly with clean hands/ Add all the spices and chopped herbs, mix together, but don’t overwork – in order to keep meatballs tender/ Add cooled onions and mix again.

Double this recipe and freeze the meatball mixture or the meatballs. Freeze uncooked meatballs on a cookie sheet for several hours until firm, and then transfer to an airtight container or zip lock bag.

lamb meatballs

Using fingers or a small spoon, make meatballs of a uniform, smallish size/ A pound will make 15 – 25 depending on size/ Place on cookie sheet and directly into 400 degree oven for 20 minutes (again, depending on size, could be a little less or a little longer)/ Or, sauté with olive oil in batches, turning every few minutes to brown/ Cook on each side, 15- 20 minutes total.

Serve with tzatziki sauce and saffron rice or make a sandwich, minus the rice, with pita bread, halved meatballs, tzatziki, a little red onion, lettuce and tomato.

Tzatziki Sauce Recipe

Ingredients & Directions: Mix together 2 C plain Greek *yogurt, 1 t finely chopped garlic, 1 T ground cumin, 1 t lemon juice, 1 t chopped mint or dill (optional), 1/2 t salt, 3 C seeded and *diced English cucumber/ Mix together, refrigerate.

Serve cold with any lamb dish or by itself as a refreshing sauce or salad.

*The yogurt and cucumber are typically placed in sieves – cucumbers chopped and salted – and their natural liquids allowed to drain for 30 minutes or so. This prevents tzatziki from becoming too liquidy. Rinse salted, drained cukes before adding to the mix. Greek yogurt and seeded English cucumber tend not to have much liquid, making the preparation process a little simpler.


Another kind of ‘tzatziki’ made with carrots, Raita, of Indian origins, is almost identical to tzatziki. And there’s Walla Walla Sweet Onion & Yogurt ‘Salad’ ala Jerry Traunfeld.

walla walla sweet onions & yogurt salad

Saffron & Yogurt Rice Recipe

Serves 4 – 6.

Ingredients & Directions:  2 C rinsed and drained Basmati rice, 4 C water, 1/4 – 1/3 C plain Greek yogurt, pinch or a few strands of saffron, 1 t lemon zest, 1/2 t turmeric, 1 t salt/ Stir together in pot, bring to simmer and cook with lid on until water has been absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

lamb meatballs

Fast Food at Home: Polenta With Trimmings Wed, 12 Feb 2014 19:31:59 +0000 Company for dinner last week, eight of us, and at best I thought the polenta would be like the music you hear in a good movie – relatively unnoticed, but an important supporting role. Well . . . polenta with the onion-garlic-tomato-mushroom-thyme-bay leaf-wine sauce, created after hours in the oven with beef brisket, stole the show. It was velvety, rich comfort food. Forget about the brisket beneath.

Polenta & greens

So, a few nights later it was Polenta again, with sautéed shallots, mushrooms, a touch of tomato paste, kale and a little liquid. Cooked together on low heat for half an hour while the Polenta was cooking, we had a melt-in-your-mouth fast food vegetarian meal. Embellish with anything you like.

 Orange-Cornmeal Sandies for Valentines

But Polenta for my Valentine? you might ask.  Check out cornmeal-based cookie and cake recipes below. Swoon-worthy.

Polenta With Trimmings Recipe

This is slow food, but fast. Serves four, or two, depending.

Polenta & greens

Directions & Ingredients for basic Polenta: Bring 5 C salted water to a boil/ Slowly pour in 1 C Polenta while whisking constantly/ It will be watery at first/ Continue stirring with whisk and adjust heat so that mixture is bubbling lightly/ Stir Polenta every 4 or 5 minutes for 35 – 40 minutes while it simmers/It could be ready to eat after 20 minutes, but flavor and finish are refined and improved with more cooking/To finish polenta, turn heat to low, stir in 2 T butter (or no butter), 1/2 C half and half or cream, 1/2 C  grated Parmesan/ Stir, remove from heat and serve immediately.


Directions & Ingredients for vegetable accompaniment: While Polenta is cooking, add 1/4 C finely chopped shallot, or 1/2 onion, to 2 T butter and 1 T olive oil/ On medium heat, sauté and stir for 1 minute (another minute if using onion)/ Add 2 C quartered mushrooms and sauté for 3 or 4 minutes – might need to add another tablespoon of olive oil/Add  1 T tomato paste, 5 – 6 C coarsely chopped kale and stir it all together/ Add 1/2 C liquid, water, veg or chicken stock, cover and cook for 5 minutes/ Remove lid , add 1/2 – 1 t salt and let cook on low for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally/ Everything becomes soft and kind of saucy/ At this point you could add an additional 1/2 C chicken or veg stock or water and let it cook for another minute or two.

When Polenta is done, place a cup or so on each plate or bowl along with a portion of the sautéed vegetables. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Additional protein? Chicken Italian sausage or a softly cooked egg are perfect.

Polenta variations via these previous Mixed Greens posts:

Berried Treasure: Polenta Cake   polenta cake & strawberries

Mexican Orange-Cornmeal Sandies (Cookies)  Chocolate Dipped Orange-Cornmeal Sandies

Polenta Polenta  Polenta & greens 2

Gremolata Festa Mon, 17 Jun 2013 04:25:49 +0000 Make Gremolata and sashay through a lotta delicious meals. Swagger even, it carries a wickedly delicious punch and it’s easy. An Italian condiment that’s used as a garnish, often with braised meats like Osso Bucco, Gremolata adds whopping flavor, consists of three ingredients and takes moments to make. Like Mayonnaise, mustard, hot sauce, this is the thing that adds zing to whatever. Just the right touch and it doesn’t take much.

Gremolata ingredients

Lemon zest, parsley and garlic are traditional, though mint, anchovies, and Parmesan are often used. After that, we’re pushing the boundaries of what the Italians know to be traditional Gremolata. Basil, olive oil, bread crumbs, non-traditional, but why not? Here’s how to make it, expand it, and some ways to use it.

Basic Gremolata Recipe

Gremolata Condiment

Notes: Depending on the type of dish, this basic recipe, 1/3 cup, is generally enough to embellish four servings. A little goes a long way, perhaps a teaspoon or two per serving is enough. Can be made ahead, but ideally make it and use it in the moment.  Zest the lemon with an official zester, or peel just the thin yellow layer with a peeler and then chop very finely – remember to avoid including the bitter white membrane. The garlic may be offputting to some. Even if you love garlic you might want to use less than what’s suggested. For me, all recipes are suggestions – except when baking.

Ingredients & directions: Zest of one lemon/ ¼ C finely chopped fresh parsley/ 1 or 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped – more if you really like raw garlic flavor, less if you don’t/  Mix together and that’s it. Too easy.

Add this a teaspoon or two at a time to Osso Bucco or almost any piece of meat or vegetable just before serving.

And there are many interpretations and uses for Gremolata.

Gremolata With Pasta

Gremolata with pasta

Ingredients & directions for three or four servings: Quadruple the basic Gremolata recipe except for the garlic (double is plenty), and set aside. Stir the following ingredients into piping hot pasta:  1 – 2 teaspoons finely chopped or smashed anchovies, red pepper flakes to taste, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons each of olive oil, toasted or dried bread crumbs, fresh basil (optional) and lemon juice. Add a few tablespoons of cooking liquid if pasta seems dry. Add 1 cup of Gremolata, toss and serve immediately. Extra topping and/or Parmesan optional.

Normally, a little Gremolata goes a long way – a tablespoon adds a lot of flavor to a serving. Except for pasta. For a pile of steaming hot pasta, enough for three or four people, make one cup by quadrupling the basic recipe. Serve pasta as is or with a piece of fish or chicken. Had this for dinner the other night with crispy Parmesan chicken. Bingo.

Gremolata with Rice

Toss ¼ cup basic gremolata with 3 cups of cooked rice while it’s still hot. Add the juice of the zested lemon and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss periodically as rice cools. Eat at room temperature with whatever you like, especially fish or steamed greens.

Gremolata with Favas, Green Beans, Brocolli

green beans gremolata

Green beans will appear in the vegetable garden soon.

Par boil green beans or broccoli for 2 minutes, shock in ice water to retain bright green color. When ready to serve, sauté in olive oil for 2 or 3 minutes, toss with Gremolata and serve. Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint to basic Gremolata for green beans if that sounds good.

For fava bean salad, start with 3 – 4 cups of  fava beans, add cumin and fresh squeezed lemon to taste, plenty of olive oil, at least 2 tablespoons of basic Gremolata and extra parsley. Instant spring/summer salad.

You might be wondering how to deal with freshly harvested fava beans. A labor of love they are, though a delicious one. This video provides excellent instruction. beans gremolata 2

Fava bean plants are a great source of nitrogen for the vegetable garden so we grow them as a cover crop for that purpose, and reap the benefits of fava bean salads, soup or spread before we dig them under.

Gremolata with Meat

Add a teaspoonful of Gremolata to lamb, pork, or chicken before serving, or garnish Osso Bucco in this traditional way. Again, add a little mint if that sounds good. Mint is one of the basic five or six ingredients often present in Gremolata.

Gremolata with Pizza or Foccacia

Add anchovies and olive oil to the basic recipe. Spread Gremolata over piping hot pizza or foccacia. Return to the oven for just a minute or two, remove from the oven and eat while warm.

Gremolata with Soup

Especially good with squash soups, but really almost any soup, including seafood chowder. Garnish each bowl with a sprinkling of  basic Gremolata just before serving, or stir 3 – 4 tablespoons into 1/3 – 1/2 cup sour cream, plain yogurt, crème fraîche, or a combination. Garnish each bowl with a spoonful.

Party Menu in a Hurry: Seafood Chowder Mon, 20 May 2013 14:27:30 +0000 peony

My brother and I made a double batch of this seafood chowder for twelve of us the other night, with an array of vegetables, leek dip, baguette, cookies and ice cream. When four more showed up there was still plenty. A festive menu that leaves time for the cook to smell the roses before dinner, peonies in this case, and takes an hour to hour and a half to prepare everything. Make the base several hours ahead or the night before, ask your sister to make dessert, do some cleanup as you go, and after dinner you can dance.

This is an encore post from March 2012.  For us this is a good party menu: Annie’s Birthday Dinner – really delicious food, for a bunch of people, in a hurry.


  Mediterranean Seafood Chowder

Plenty of baguette & butter

Raw Vegetables & Leek dip (instead of salad)

 Chocolate Cake & Ice Cream


]]> 2 Spring’s Fast Fresh Food Mon, 06 May 2013 04:38:27 +0000 salmon & asparagus

Time for fresh, quickly cooked food from nearby and savoring it under a blossoming tree somewhere. If it doesn’t rain first, says the pessimist self; definitely, the sun is back says the optimist.

Lilacs, asparagus and herbs mark the season – and anniversaries. Branches of blooming lilacs festooned our May sailboat wedding along with pizza, asparagus, plenty of beer and chocolate things. It was 85 degrees that day, a rarity in May. Happened again this week.

This pasta and/or salad bring flavors of spring to the table. Three key ingredients in both: asparagus, fresh herbs and smoked salmon. If you have herbs in the garden that are flaunting their vibrancy and flavor, use them abundantly. They will never taste better than now and cutting encourages another round of growth.

Inspired by the Cristina of Sun Valley Cookbook, I’ve added salmon instead of trout to her pasta dish, fresh herbs and peas. Then turned those same ingredients into a salad.

These recipes are a guideline. Non-recipes. And they’re fast. Prepare a bowlful of fusilli pasta or greens for the salad, toss with these key ingredients and others that sound good. Happy Spring.

Fusilli with Smoked Salmon & Asparagus Recipe

salmon & asparagus pasta

Serves  4 or 5. With ingredients lined up, this takes 20 minutes to prepare. Make sauce while pasta cooks.smoked salmon pasta

Ingredients: 1 # asparagus, cut on diagonal, tough ends removed (save butt ends for broth)/1 # Fusilli pasta/ 2 T butter/ 2 T olive oil/ 1 clove minced garlic/ 2 leeks, chopped into rounds/ Juice of 2 lemons and 2 T zest/ 2 C whipping cream/ 1/2 – 1 # * Loki’s smoked salmon – more or less salmon depending on taste and availability/ 4 T coarsely chopped fresh dill and/or other fresh herbs from the garden – parsley, oregano, marjoram, chives, sorrel . . . I skipped fresh dill and used a variety of fresh herbs along with a teaspoon of dried dill/  Add a handful of peas or pea shoots if you have them/ Salt and pepper to taste/ Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, when serving.


Directions: Bring a large pot of water to a boil/ Blanch asparagus pieces in boiling water for 1 ½ minutes, drain and transfer to bowl (or use previously cooked asparagus)/ Cook pasta  in this same water until al dente, ten or twelve minutes/ While pasta is cooking, melt butter and olive oil in large skillet/ Cook leeks and garlic on medium heat until soft, about 4 minutes/ Add lemon juice and cream/ Simmer/ Just before adding cooked pasta, stir salmon, dill and parsley, peas, zest, salt and pepper into creamy sauce/ Drain pasta, reserving at least one cup of its water, and toss with the sauce/ Simmer together on medium high heat for under a minute/ Add pasta water, a little at a time if needed, for a thinner, creamier sauce/ Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese/ Eat.

Smoked Salmon & Asparagus Salad Recipe

smoked salmon salad

Serves  4 or 5. After ingredients are gathered, this takes about 15 minutes to prepare.

Instead of a sauce for pasta, use similar ingredients to make a dressing for salad, toss with plenty of greens and fresh herbs from the garden. Some frozen peas as a teaser to the real ones coming soon.

Ingredients: A bowl full of salad greens, at least 8 cups (include brassica florets if you have them)/  1 – 2 C fresh herbs that might include: oregano, marjoram, chives, sorrel, a few mint leaves, fava blossoms, and a large amount of parsley/ ½ #, more or less, Loki’s smoked salmon, broken into bite-sized pieces/ ½ #, or more, trimmed and sliced, lightly blanched or roasted asparagus/ Zest of 1 lemon/ Toss together with dressing, sprinkle with zest, a handful of reserved herbs, add a softly poached or hard boiled egg if you like/ Springtime salad perfection.

Salad Dressing, Ingredients & Directions: Combine 1/4 C olive oil with 1 T whipping cream, juice of 1 lemon, ½ t mustard, salt and pepper to taste/ Shake or whisk vigorously/ Pour some of it over salad greens, taste, add more as needed/ Refrigerate leftover dressing.

*Loki’s is a local, family-run business. Fishing locally and producing delicious products from their sustainably harvested salmon. Available at some Farmer’s Markets, Met Market, PCC Markets.

Fish Taco Quest Mon, 08 Apr 2013 02:24:22 +0000 I arrived in Puerto Rico a few days ago wondering about a few things – the heat and humidity, will I get cozy with Zumba and standup paddle boarding, will I get some work done? Make a good fish taco? Finally?


Chances are pretty good for the fish tacos. A. I’m in a small town where fresh fish is abundant. B. I’d like to cook fresh and light and quick.

So, let the quest begin. The best part of the trip is my family here – they  were captive to my taco experiments. First round, my second night here, featured frozen fish from the supermarket. It was a start. Made with grouper, the star of that show was the red cabbage/cucumber/avocado slaw dressed with lots of fresh squeezed lime and some hot pepper. Salsa and sour cream of course. Pretty good.

Next day I learned where to buy freshly caught local fish. And then I got lucky.

Pirulo, the landlord of the little place on the beach where I’m staying, gave me a freshly caught Mahi Mahi, or something like Mahi Mahi he thought. The perfect fish for tacos, but truthfully, any white fish will do.

Pirulo’s a local character, in a very good way. He fishes from his little boat many mornings, manages a small guest cottage, tends his beautiful tropical veggie and herb gardens, raises pigs and chickens. Not interested much in the internet, he jumped right on the bandwagon to try to recover his wifi service for me. Thanks Pirulo, for all of it.

My Best Fish Taco So Far Recipe

Fish taco

I’m on vacation, this ‘recipe’ is very loose. I’ll tell the story and I think there’s a recipe in here somewhere. Enough for approximately 6 tacos.

The basics: 3 or 4 limes/ the fish/ cabbage/ sour cream/ cilantro/ jalapeño/ salsa/ avocado/ hot sauce/ fresh tortillas.

A piece of white fish, a pound or two depending. My fish must have been at least a pound and made six hearty tacos.

Marinating fish

 Ingredients for fish marinade: the juice of two limes/ 2 T olive oil/ 1 clove of garlic coarsely chopped/ 1 or 1/2 finely chopped jalapeño (according to taste)/ 1 t cumin/ Shake to mix and pour over fish one half hour before cooking.

Lime sour cream

Prepare lime sour cream: 1 1/2 C sour cream/ Juice of at least one lime/ 1/2 t cumin/ More finely chopped jalapeño/ Mix together and reserve.

Red cabbage slaw

Prepare cabbage slaw: Grate or very finely slice 3 C red or green cabbage/ Dice an avocado/ 1/2 C thinly sliced red onion/ Stir together with 1 T lime juice and/or vinegar/ Stir in 1/4 C of the sour cream lime dressing.

Salsa, hot sauce, more avocado, cilantro on the side.

Grill or sauté fish. Remove from marinade, cook fish several minutes per side and then pour marinade over when it’s about done, let it sizzle in the sauté pan for a minute. It becomes a lovely sauce. When grilling, simmer marinade in a small sauce pan and pour over fish before serving.

Assemble: Grill fresh tortillas to your liking. I place them on a hot grill pan, less than a minute on each side. Smother grilled tortilla with lime sour cream, salsa, slaw and fish. Embellish with hot sauce and cilantro to taste, another squeeze of lime. Eat up. Have another one. They’re good for you.

Fish tacos

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Looking Back at 2012 Mon, 07 Jan 2013 01:00:09 +0000 Sunrise on Orcas

Before looking forward and thinking about what I’d like to accomplish in 2013, I decided to spend a few moments looking back at 2012. I often check our recipes on Mixed Greens to remind myself of how to make a certain dish but this time I wanted to think more about what posts represent an actual change in the way I approach food — cooking, eating, shopping, entertaining. For me it’s become all about paying closer attention to what’s in season, what I feel like eating, what’s available locally, what will please my family and friends, how much time does a recipe take, how much do ingredients cost and how to waste less food. That’s a lot to consider just to get a simple meal on the table. These posts represent a few of the small changes I made last year that have actually stuck with me.

Washed Lettuce

It may sound insignificant but the biggest change I’ve made has been preparing more vegetables in advance. And as with many changes, I’ve done it out of necessity. We’ve been spending more and more time working on our cabin on Orcas Island where we don’t have running water yet. I’ve gotten in the habit of washing all our greens ahead of time. Now, even when we aren’t traveling, I religiously wash my greens before I put them into the fridge. It takes a few minutes but saves loads of time later and makes it much more inviting to consume more vegetables. They also stay fresh WAY longer.

Bowl of Fresh Greens

I’ve also gotten in the habit of roasting or sauteing a big batch of whatever vegetables I have on hand to use throughout the week. Make-Ahead Vegetables: 4 Ways is the post that will give you all the details about how to get started down this simple but important path to making it easier to eat more vegetables in every meal. I’ve enjoyed having all my prep done so much that I think once we get a real kitchen set up in the cabin, I’ll still continue with this trend.

Salmon and Asian Vegetables

Although I keep wishing I were a person that finds cooking relaxing, I find eating good food much more satisfying than preparing it so I try to cook as efficiently as possible. One pot or one pan, simple meals are the best way for me to eat well with little time spent in the kitchen. In Sheet Pan Palooza, I describe several meals that are easy to make using one pan and take very little time to prepare.  Salmon fillets are often on our weekly menu but roasting them in the oven along with the vegetables makes a lot of sense. It may sound more like a Duh moment than a Aha moment but sometimes the simplest solutions can be the most profound.

Marinated Tofu

It was while I was writing the sheet pan post that I discovered marinated tofu and have incorporated it into our weeknight meals.  Making the marinade only takes a couple of minutes and then I either roast it with vegetables or cook it on my most favorite cooking tool of 2012, a used Le Creuset grill pan I found at Goodwill. Out of the Fire Into the Grill Pan will give you the basics of grilling without ever stepping outdoors in the rain. Marinated tofu is not only delicious, it’s one of the least expensive sources of protein you’ll find. I know there are plenty of tofu-haters out there and I may not be able to convert you but all I can say is, please try it, I think you’ll like it.

Grilled Tofu

Every once in a while I get inspired to try a new do-it-yourself project and while I’ve made ricotta cheese in the past, I took it one step further last spring and made my own Goat Cheese. It was one of my more successful DIY projects last year so I can highly recommend giving it a try. I think every step I make toward eliminating processed food in my diet is a good one. I can buy excellent goat cheese without additives or chemicals but processing food myself that I may have previously bought pre-processed is a positive change.

Homemade Goat Cheese

The best plant purchase I made in 2012 was an Italian parsley start from the farmers market. It’s been an over-achiever from the beginning and I can still go out and pick a few sprigs whenever I need them. That will probably all change when we have a very heavy frost but it looks like I’ll have a few volunteers next spring since I’ve let it go to seed. I’m embarrassed to admit that it was while writing Parsley Steals the Show that I finally started chopping up the parsley stalks as well as the leaves. During 2012, I began to wonder each time I peeled a vegetable or cut out a core whether that was necessary for taste or am I just doing what I’ve always done.

Chopped Italian Parsley

My parsley also made an excellent addition to my Kale Smoothies, another 2012 first for me. I already had all the ingredients but just put them together in a different way.

Kale Smoothie

These changes may all seem like baby steps rather than grand gestures and they are. I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m not going to wake up in the new year and be a different person than I was in the past, nor do I want to be. There’s always room for improvement and for me it happens gradually. One of my resolutions is to stay open to trying new things. What I find makes sense to me and my life will probably end up right here in a post or two. Some of the trends that are intriguing to me are making my own yogurt, learning more about the different types of Asian noodles and how to use them, more ways to eat nuts and grains, using meat as a condiment, nutritious cold weather beverages and indoor smoking (it’s not what you think)….





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